Opinion  

Cold-calling ban delay is unacceptable

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

June has gone and with it went not only the hopes of the German football team but also the industry's hope for an implementation of the cold-calling ban.

A few months ago, government legislated for the ban, and pledged to bring it in as soon as possible to protect vulnerable pensioners from being targeted by unscrupulous chancers and the downright fraudulent.

This was welcomed at the time by the pensions industry, advisers and later life advocacy groups alike. 

However, the much-promised ban, which government promised would come into effect by the end of June, was not ready on time.

It appears the regulations required to implement the ban have not been laid, so the timetable was not met. And with the summer recess about to begin, it is unlikely a ban on cold-calling (and cold emailing/texting) will become law any time soon.

In the meantime, the thousands of people getting access to their hard-earned pension pots at 55 are prime targets for the scammers.

Baroness Ros Altmann, former pensions minister who is currently serving in the Lords, commented: "Having worked so hard in the Lords stages of the Bill to get a proper ban on pensions cold-calling, only to then see the measures watered down significantly, it is really disappointing that even these weaker protections will not be put in place on time."

Even watered-down measures would be better than none. We all remember the tragic and terrible suicide of 92-year-old Olive Cooke, the poppy seller, who was hounded by hundreds of begging letters a year.

When her suicide was investigated, it was found she could no longer cope with all the demands for her charitable giving. Among the findings from the Fundraising Standards Board, were the following, shocking, statistics: 

  • The mailings Mrs Cooke received trebled from 119 in the year 2000 to a peak of 466 in 2014.
  • Twenty four of the 99 charities had passed on her contact details.

While the new General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May, will go some way to preventing vulnerable people being mass-mailed, the cold-calling ban is desperately needed to prevent someone being targeted for their life savings. 

Quite often, as charities involved in the later life sector state, older people are more likely to be beguiled over the phone into parting with their money, often because they are lonely and enjoy talking to someone who sounds professional and polite. 

Without a proper set of measures put in place now, more pensioners are simply going to fall prey to plausible, well-rehearsed snake oil salesmen.

simoney.kyriakou@ft.com